Interview: Cannibal Corpse's Paul Mazurkiewicz Talks Art, Death Metal, and Torture
In extreme music, there are bands, and then there are bands, and then there is Cannibal Corpse. The epitome of their blood-soaked aesthetic, the Tampa, Florida, quintet remains death metal’s most recognizable band. What separates them from their peers, however, is that they are consistently making some of the best extreme metal in the world 20-plus years since their formation. Released earlier this year, the band’s 12th full-length, Torture, continues this time-honored tradition of gore-drenched brutality, and may be—though some purists will certainly argue against this—the best record they’ve ever made. With his band named one of the 15 Most Extreme Bands Ever in the new issue of Revolver (available on newsstands July 10 and online right here right now) founding drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz hollered at Revolver from his Florida home to discuss life, death, and the Cannibal Corpse tradition.
REVOLVER The new record is really brutal and dark, in even a creepy and foreboding way that you guys don’t always do. Was that intentional? How did you go into making Torture?
PAUL MAZURKIEWICZ I always just think of it as another chapter in the Cannibal Corpse story. There’s not gonna be anything too out there for Cannibal Corpse—we’re brutal death metal, that’s what we play, we always make that clear—but we always try to write the best songs we can. There’s never any discussion of what any song or album needs to be, you know? The songwriters sit down and let stuff come out. I think the cool thing about this record is Rob [Barret, guitar] and Pat [O’Brien, guitar] contributing more than they ever have in the past. Alex [Webster, bass] wrote five songs on this album, Pat wote four, and Rob wrote three. If you look back on any previous release, that’s the most diverse album we’ve ever had with the various songwriters. These are the best songs they ever wrote for us. They’re coming into their own as songwriters. When I listen to it, I hear our most diverse album, and yeah, a very dark album. It’s by no means our most brutal or our fastest album. In fact, it’s kind of the other way around, it’s more of everything than ever. You can’t go into it thinking, We have to out-do Evisceration and Kill. Let’s write what we’re going to write in this time frame, and then, yeah, try to mix it up a hair. But that’s about it. We know it’s going to be brutal, we know it’s going to be death metal. It’s Cannibal Corpse.
Songs like “Scourge of Iron” and “Followed Home Then Killed” are great examples of that. They’re brutal, but also atmospheric and moving.
I feel the same way. They’re Cannibal songs, but they’re different Cannibal songs. “Scourge of Iron” is a very different song—it’s a slow, pounding song, very effective, very brutal. “Followed Home Then Killed” is interesting—that’s a Pat song, and when you normally hear a Pat song, you expect a thousand notes, something very technical. There’s a technicality to that song, but it’s mostly a straight pounding, furious song. I’m glad those guys wrote the way they did—it makes for a really diverse and powerful record.
Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal produced this record, as he did with the last two. Is he officially the Cannibal Corpse producer from now on?
Sort of. It’s not set in stone exactly. I mean, we love Erik, he did an amazing job on these records, and he’s one of our closest friends. Will we use him on the next record? I don’t know. That’s part of growth as well. We’re by no means looking that far in the future yet. But we’re always willing to explore other avenues as well. It’s a tough call, because he’s done such a great job on this record and the last two. So do you try something new, just for the sake of mixing it up? Or do you stay with what’s really working? It’s too early to tell. I can definitely say he has produced our three best records sonically. All of our producers have been great, but of course, Erik has done a tremendous job. If he was the producer from here on out, how could it sound bad? But it’s just too early to tell.
You’re obviously Florida-based now, but I remember you guys as a Buffalo, New York, band originally. When did the official move of Cannibal from Buffalo to Tampa?
I always lose track because it’s been so damn long, but I think it’s April-May of ’95? We did The Bleeding still commuting from Buffalo to Florida, but that was our last one. We did Vile in Florida. Luckily it was already our second home—we had already made four CDs there, and every time we went down it was a longer stay. We knew a lot of people there, we knew the town decently.
Earlier this year, Pat played some European tour dates with Slayer. Did he come back a changed man? Had his hair gone white?
I think it went white before he left, man! That was such a huge deal, for someone from Cannibal Corpse to be playing with Slayer! I remember when we first heard it. We were in the middle of songwriting, too—in the thick of it, not playing any shows, not doing anything other than the album—and then that all comes up, and of course it had to be done, for him personally and for the band. I think he was going gray beforehand because it was such short notice, and he was being thrown into a very different level of playing, with what they do and where they’re at in their career. But everyone who saw him kept saying what an amazing job he did. How could it not effect you? You’re playing with Slayer, for God’s sake! That’s incredible to me! I was so happy for him when I found out—I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t contain myself, I kept running around telling everyone we knew, "Oh my God, you won’t believe what happened!"
I know you’re the go-between with the band and Cannibal Corpse cover artist Vince Locke. How did you go about working with him this time out?
Well, this time around, we really wanted to do something old-school Cannibal. It’s funny you said I’m the go-to—this is the first time Alex was the go-to guy with Vince. And even then, a lot of the album covers weren’t necessarily our ideas, it was all Vince. That’s how much we trust him and love his artwork and ideas. They’re very similar to our own thought processes and ideas, so we’ve often just trusted him and maybe made minimal changes. But in this instance, we went, "You know what, we need a really brutal Cannibal Corpse cover, in the vein of Butchered At Birth or The Wretched Spawn." Vince drew a pretty graphic cover for us, as opposed to, like, Kill, which didn’t even have anything that brutal, just the guy with the knife. This one, we went in a real old-school vein.
It’s cool that you guys and Vince are still on the same page, given how much his art has been a part of your imagery over the years.
It is really cool, man, knowing he’s done all our records. It is something very special to us. He’s an intricate part of the band. It would be very bizarre—I can’t even imagine it!—to have someone else do a cover for us. We’re just happy to still have him aboard.